The Mavericks, in keeping with their name, are a band that has consistently denied attempts to pigeon hole their music, which has blended a wide variety of styles since their birth as a band in Miami in 1989. After a heyday in the 1990’s, which brought both commercial and critical success, including a Grammy for Best Country Performance by a Group for ‘Here Comes the Rain‘ in 1996, the band split in 2003, reforming in 2012. Latin stylings have always played a big part in their sound–as in their most successful UK hit, ‘Dance the Night Away‘ from 1998–reflecting the bands Cuban-American roots, but their latest release, ‘En Español’, is their first album exclusively in the Spanish language.
Featuring a mix of their own original songs and classic Latin tracks the album draws on Cuban, Tejano/Tex-Mex and wider Latin rhythms, combined with their country and roots influences, to produce a compelling and uplifting sound. Raul Malo, the band’s lead singer and songwriter, is joined by fellow Miamian and charter band member, Paul Deakin on drums and vibraphone, as well as band veteran Jerry Dale McFadden, who joined in 1993. Eddie Perez, a Mexican American guitarist from Los Angeles, is the band’s youngest and newest member, becoming a Maverick in 2003. Prominent as a guest on a number of tracks is Tejano accordionist Flaco Jimenez, well known for his collaborations with Ry Cooder, among many others including Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, who adds real Tex-Mex colour on his featured tracks.
Opening track ‘La Sitiera‘, well known in the version by Omara Portuando on the ‘Buena Vista Social Club Presents‘ album is given an arrangement summoning up a Quentin Tarantino movie, with twangy surf guitar, while retaining its Cuban roots. In contrast, ‘Sabor a Mi‘ plays as a smoky jazz club number, it’s chilled vibe inviting comparison with the Los Lobos version from ‘Just Another Band From East LA‘, swapping the Latin guitars trading solos for mariachi trumpet and keys. ‘Poder Vivir‘, one of five original songs, and released as the first single off the album is an irresistible invitation to dance, with its ska beat and lyrical accordion fills from Jimenez, as is another original, ‘Mujer‘, where a rumba beat takes over.
A different side of the band is revealed on ‘Me Olvide de Vivir‘, a traditional song given an upbeat backing with more than a hint of Nilsson’s ‘Everybody’s Talking‘, in the acoustic guitar and strings which combine with Jimenez’s accordion, and mariachi trumpet. The album is produced by Malo and the band’s long-time collaborator Niko Bolas (Neil Young, Prince, Sheryl Crow), giving a contemporary edge to both originals and covers.
‘En Español‘ is a fine album, which should introduce the band to a new audience, as well as long-standing fans of their eclectic output.